#lifeatheathrow for Ricky Oakes – Engineering Operations Manager


By Heathrow

Published 4th November 2019

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Heathrow is home to over 76,500 colleagues working across over 400 companies, with dozens of different career roles including Engineering.

This week, we are joining forces with The Royal Academy of Engineering to show the world what engineering and engineers really look like.

We’ll be catching up with some of our amazing colleagues in the Engineering team to find out more about their #lifeatheathrow experience and what it’s like to have a career at Heathrow.

Engineering Operations Manager Ricky Oakes, who has been at Heathrow for almost 30 years tells us about his engineering story.

How long have you been working in engineering?

I’ve been working in Engineering Operations for 2 years but been working at Heathrow for almost 30 years.

Explain your role at Heathrow?

I support and lead a team of Airport Control Engineers maintaining the HV network at Heathrow. They respond to events requiring intervention to ensure other business units’ capability to operate and provide the passenger journey is not compromised.

Collaborating with internal and external stakeholders, they ensure any reduction in service or facility is managed to deliver a safe and secure operation making every journey safe.

I also oversee the Engineering resilience team by creating plans for the foreseen events that would have a large impact on Heathrow’s ability to maintain a great passenger experience.

What’s a typical day like for you?

I work in operations for the reason there is no typical day, Heathrow is a small city with approx. 80 million passengers a year. If it was your house, that’s 219,000 people going through your living room a day.

The role of operations is to ensure the first and the last of those visitors gets the same excellent experience and is safe and secure whilst in our care. The facilities and services can be stretched daily requiring intervention from the teams across Heathrow.

There is no typical day unless you count the appreciation of “helping others have a great experience without distraction from whatever contingencies maybe in place.”

What would you say to someone thinking about a job at Heathrow?

It’s an awesome place to work with incredible diversity in the roles that exist and the people that carry them out. From the extremes of Caring to Coding, if you have a passion for caring, the passenger facing roles will satisfy that need for a whole career.

If you like coding, there are roles in Engineering specialist systems or Airport operations analytics that will lead future strategy.

There are opportunities to see other roles and experience other departments supporting your career development with courses to compliment your career development with personal development.

What one tip would you give someone when they’re applying for a role at Heathrow?

Research the role and ensure your application reflects the values and behaviours required to deliver the role.

What are the best things about working at Heathrow?

Aside from the last two paragraphs on “typical day” and thinking about a job”. The opportunity to simply make a passenger’s journey through Heathrow the best it can be, associating and bringing to life how each role through collaborating with others can improve that journey. 

What do you think are the biggest myths in regards to engineering?

It’s generally regarded that engineers as logical, practical and have the personality of “Spock”. This is just not the case they are creative, innovative and emotionally intelligent.  

Tell us about your career so far:

I started in aviation with the RAF as an Air Traffic Controller then a Fire fighter, joining Heathrow Airport as a Fire fighter in 1990. I moved from the Fire Service in 2003, becoming a Terminal Manager of Service Delivery (MSD) which involved looking after the operational passenger safety and security. 

In 2007, I moved to Airside in the role of the Operations Duty Manager (ODM), a much more complex role looking after the facility of Airside and its operational capability against CAA regulations and the Flow of aircraft into the airport through collaboration with National Air Traffic Services (NATS).

During my tenure, this role split, and a Facility and Flow role was created, and I became a Duty Manager Airside (DMA). Then, as a DMA I was approached in 2011 to be the Winter Operations Managers with objectives to turn the Snowplan into an effective team delivery.

I successfully handed this role over in 2016 and took up the role of Airside Safety Investigation and improvement lead, tracking reportable events, identifying trends and providing guidance and awareness to hazards.

I then made a much more exciting move back to operations to my current position of Engineering Operations Manager in 2017.

Do you find Heathrow a welcoming place to work for people of all backgrounds?

Absolutely, Heathrow is the gateway to the UK, welcoming nationalities from all over the world. It’s one of diverse workplaces, both in passenger experience and colleague engagement.

For more information on Careers at Heathrow, visit our new website at: www.careers.heathrow.com


By Heathrow

Published 4th November 2019